1. Poor plan for Thielen

– proved he’d be more than a handful over the final 44 minutes. Lined up in the right slot on third-and-4, Thielen had to be liking the zone coverage he was seeing. Linebacker Zach Brown was across from him with safety DeAngelo Hall over the top. Meanwhile, star cornerback Josh Norman was in man coverage outside on a running back, Jerick McKinnon. Huh? “That’s actually the look we practiced against all week for that play,” Thielen said. “[Brown] had a certain zone and I knew I really had to sell the deep route to make sure I could get inside of him.” Thielen ran a slant, caught the ball and beat Hall up the middle. He recorded eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown.

2. Sendejo turns 7 points into 3

The Vikings gave up season highs in yards (394) and points (30). But the defense also made plays. One that won’t get the attention it deserves was strong safety Andrew Sendejo turning a Jamison Crowder 3-yard touchdown catch into a 21-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. Quarterback Kirk Cousins scrambled, giving Crowder time to shake Sendejo in the back of the end zone. But Sendejo closed and alertly punched his right arm up and between Crowder’s hands, knocking the ball out of his grasp. “A great job playing the hands and not getting a penalty,” safety Harrison Smith said. “They don’t look like much to the fan, but that’s really hard to be guarding a guy and having no idea what’s going on behind you. And you have to just wait and play the ball. What he did could be teach tape for how to do it.”

3. Keenum buys time on 49-yarder

Case Keenum has played all but six quarters of nine games and has been sacked only five times. “Another no-sack game,” he smiled. Yes, the offensive line is mostly responsible. It has gone from No. 1 weakness to No. 1 strength. But Thielen’s 49-yard reception was the perfect example of what Keenum’s legs can provide. On this particular play, outside linebacker Preston Smith beat left tackle Riley Reiff. But Keenum slid away from the rush, stepped up and launched a deep ball to Thielen. The Vikings scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 35-17 lead. “I saw him break the pocket, which is kind of why I put my hand up and ran,” Thielen said. “That’s one thing we know he does really well. So we’re always kind of on alert for that and always trying to find a hole when he breaks free.”

 

4. Instincts propel Johnson’s TFL

Twice, the Vikings held Washington on fourth down. Late in the third quarter, Brian Robison batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-6 to preserve a 35-20 lead. Even more crucial was the play defensive tackle Tom Johnson made on fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 33 with 4½ minutes left and the Vikings protecting a 38-27 lead. Johnson shot his gap and dropped running back Chris Thompson for a 4-yard loss. “The guard had been oversetting all day; pretty much leaning a little bit and coming off hard that way,” Johnson said. “It was instincts. I saw him leaning kind of a little bit, so I knew which way they were going. So I just decided to shoot my shot and see what happens. I took the gap and it paid off. I guess it was my time to make a play.”

5. Penalties few but costly

As the least penalized team in the league, Washington does a good job letting opponents beat themselves. They won at Seattle as the Seahawks committed 16 penalties. Sunday, Washington had two penalties for 15 yards. The Vikings had three for 40 yards. It should have been one for 10 yards. Personal fouls on nose tackle Linval Joseph for roughing the passer and receiver Stefon Diggs for using the goal past as a celebration prop were costly and avoidable. Especially for Diggs, who ran and jumped onto the goal post. Because of that, Washington had to go only 60 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. Meanwhile, Joseph’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Cousins turned a three-and-out into a field goal. “I dove at the quarterback,” Joseph said. “They say I grazed him. There’s nothing I can do. It wasn’t intentional. Life must go on, right?”